How Health Systems Can Improve Behavioral Health Care at Scale

How Health Systems Can Improve Behavioral Health Care at Scale

Finding behavioral health providers can be challenging for hospitals and health systems across the country. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 47% of people live in a mental health provider shortage area. Alongside this shortage of mental health providers, health systems are facing an ever-increasing demand for care, making finding a sustainable, scalable solution for behavioral health services paramount.

In a webinar hosted by Beckers Hospital Review, healthcare leaders from Allina Health and Geisinger came together to discuss their approach to scaling behavioral health across the care continuum and how they’re leveraging partnerships with organizations like ours to meet the demand for care and support their patient populations.

How Geisinger is leveraging behavioral health partnerships to meet patient needs

Dawn Zieger, Vice President of Behavioral Health and Psychiatry at Geisinger, spoke to the organization’s experience with a rise in outpatient demand, noting they receive 180 referrals daily. Zieger says they would need to hire one psychiatrist every other day to keep up with demand. Fortunately, leveraging behavioral health partners who can support health systems via telehealth can help keep up with growing demand and scale behavioral health services across the care continuum.

Here are a few ways behavioral health partnerships can support care delivery:

  • Specialist care: To help keep up with the surge of outpatient access, organizations like Geisinger have leveraged telehealth services to help supplement their on-site providers and make behavioral health care available locally. For example, for health systems with a high volume of young patients, connecting with a pediatric psychiatrist can be a game-changer for the whole organization.
  • Group therapy: Scaling patient care by using group therapy can be another great strategy to reach more patients and get them the care they need faster. At Geisinger, 70% of their referrals are for depression, anxiety, or stress. By leveraging group therapy, Geisinger can reach more people where they are and help make the most of provider time.
  • Patient management: At Geisinger, Zeiger says they’re making a paradigm shift towards a population management approach to care. For example, organizations are better positioned to close care gaps and improve patient outcomes by monitoring patients showing early signs of behavioral health conditions and providing proactive outreach.

Sharing her thoughts on telehealth’s role at Geisinger, Zeiger said, “Virtual care has really helped democratize care in our community and helped us to serve in a way we never could.”

How Allina Health is optimizing outpatient care in the ED

Helping ensure psychiatry is readily available in the ED is crucial to helping increase throughput and improving patient outcomes.

To learn more about increasing throughput in the ED, download our whitepaper.

Joe Clubb, Vice President of Operations at Allina Health, highlighted Allina’s approach to building out their outpatient services in a robust way that will allow them to close out 2023 with 15% growth and help them ensure alternatives are available to inpatient admissions.

Clubb shared that leveraging virtual care to support those efforts has served their patients well – with Allina’s patient attendance rates going up by 10% and patient satisfaction increasing by 5% after virtual care implementation. He says, “For Allina, virtual care is here to stay.”

By having behavioral health providers readily available, patients can get the care they need. While the mental health provider shortage continues to grow, leveraging virtual clinicians can significantly impact operations.

Clubb says, “Because of the rapid growth, we can’t hire our way out of the shortage. We continue to do a great job with recruitment but rely heavily on our Iris partnership to staff that growth in our partial treatment programs.”

Leveraging behavioral health providers for integrated care

Having a care team available to patients and providers can help prevent behavioral health conditions from escalating and give on-site teams a specialist to lean on for complex cases.

For example, Geisinger integrated a provider team comprising psychiatrists, PMHNPs, and LCSWs to ensure each patient got the right level of care, by the right provider, in a timely manner.

To learn how Geisinger dramatically reduced their referral queue, read the case study here.

At Allina, they’re addressing the needs of individuals through an integrated primary care model. Currently, they have a team of 25 psychiatrists and 80 psychologists. They’re also introducing a new role called a mental health consultant, a clinical social worker embedded in primary care.

Clubb says by using this model they can address needs inclusive of social determinants of health and complex psychiatric needs.

By learning how to integrate mental health into primary care, organizations are more fully equipped to address a broad spectrum of behavioral health needs.

Get started with Iris Telehealth

At Iris, we’re grateful for the partnership of Geisinger and Allina Health and couldn’t be more thrilled to help them scale their behavioral health programs. If you’d like to hear more of their insights into their behavioral health, you can watch the webinar here.

Additionally, if you’d like to learn more about integrating quality behavioral health programs into your hospital or health system, contact us today to get started!

We want to hear from you. Seriously.

Whether you are a health organization looking to expand your telepsychiatry services or a prospective clinician who wants to join the team, we’d love to talk!